I was in Milwaukee recently and had some time to kill between appointments on the west side of town. It was getting close to lunch time and I was getting a little hungry. I had read about a place called Matty's Bar and Grille and how they're supposed to have a killer burger. The only problem is that Matty's is out in New Berlin (pronounced BER-lin, not ber-LIN like in Germany) and it was a little bit of a drive from where I was. I put their address into my GPS and about 20 minutes later I pulled up in front of the bar on W. College Ave. (see map)
Matty's has been around since 1997 and is owned by Matt Anderson. Anderson transformed a sleepy little bar into one of the top destinations to watch sports in the greater Milwaukee area. While it's not as big as Major Goolsby's in downtown Milwaukee, nor does it come close to the number of televisions that Goolsby's has, it's more like a friendly little neighborhood bar that has better than average sports bar food. Their signature burger, the Smokehouse burger - part smoked beef brisket and certified black angus - was concocted by Chef Bob Nicholson who has run the kitchen at Matty's for the past seven years. In addition to their burgers, Matty's also has a number of delectable sandwiches and their own in-house thin-crust pizza.
Matty's is situated in a building with a stone front around the entrance and it looks like the place has been added on to two or three times. It definitely had been added on to in the back of the place with their four seasons room which, in contrast to the main part of the place, features a high ceiling, large windows and an exit to an outside beer garden off to the side of the building. The main part of the bar area is more cozy than the open and airy four seasons room in the back.
I was greeted by a young lady who asked me if I wanted a table or to sit at the bar. I opted for the bar and sat down just as the noon news started on the television in front of me. On the back bar of Matty's, there was a somewhat sophisticated computer than controlled the multiple satellite receivers they had for receiving sports on their 18 televisions. Matty's subscribes to DirecTV so they have access to every professional sports television package, as well as all the regional networks that feature college sports in the fall and winter.
A young lady who was working behind the bar - Gabby - offered me a menu and told me that it was "chili day" at Matty's. For $9.99 you got a sample of three different types of chili that Chef Bob Nicholson came up with for that particular day. Chili did sound good on a day that had come on the heels of a cold front that plowed through the area overnight, but I was still in the mood for a burger.
After getting a Capital Wisconsin Amber that they had on tap, I looked through the menu to see if anything else jumped out at me other than getting one of their burgers. One of the interesting items was the Mama's Meatloaf sandwich, a secret meatloaf recipe that is topped with a sauce and served on ciabatta bread. They also had a pastrami sandwich - "Matty's Style" - that featured thin slices of warm pastrami, topped with a brown mustard and served on marble rye bread. I'm a sucker for a good pastrami sandwich and the description of the one on Matty's menu almost made me forget about a hamburger.
But, no, the Smokehouse burger was the draw for me on this visit. (I figured that I could come back to Matty's at some point for the pastrami.) At Matty's, you build your own burger - first choosing from one of over a dozen different cheeses that range from American to smoked cheddar to provolone to crumbled blue cheese to exotic cheeses such as black peppercorn and white cheddar, and dolcina cheese that is part cow and goat milk cheese with a sweet creamy gorgonzola taste. Being that you're in Wisconsin, you wouldn't expect anything less for a good burger with cheese.
After choosing your cheese, you have the option of ten different toppings including green peppers, jalapenos, fried egg, sauerkraut and sun-dried tomatoes. Then you could get your choice of over a dozen spices or sauces such as cajun or Caribbean jerk seasonings, blue cheese butter, black bean corn relish (probably more for the grilled chicken sandwiches) and garlic aioli. The combinations were endless and I was in a little bit of a fog trying to figure out what I wanted.
When Gabby came back to take my order, I ended up getting the Smokehouse burger topped with pepperjack cheese, bacon that is smoked in house, and mushrooms. I had my choice of a side with the burger - sides that included homemade potato chips, cottage cheese, fruit, pasta salad and cole slaw. I decided upon French fries to go with the burger.
With the lunch rush kicking in while I was there, my burger came out less than 20 minutes after I ordered - long enough for me to down a pint of the Wisconsin Amber and time to order another. The burger came out wrapped in a paper half-wrap that could be used to hold the burger without getting any juice or condiments on your hands. I quickly tore it off so I could inspect the burger with the bun open. It featured copious amounts of chopped mushrooms, two thick slices of smoked bacon and a gooey amount of pepperjack cheese. The fries were nothing special to me, but there was a nice little treat sitting on top of the fries - a homemade chocolate chip cookie. I'd never had a cookie as part of the overall meal before.
The first bite of the burger elicited an "Mmmmmmmm..." from yours truly. The 1/2 lb. Smokehouse burger was lean, but juicy. The combination of the cheese, bacon and mushrooms only heightened the taste sensation I was having. The bun was light and chewy, yet firm, holding together wonderfully with everything that was on the burger. It was cooked to what I would call a perfect medium with a slight hint of pink the very middle of the burger patty. It was simply one of the best burgers I've ever had.
So far this year, I've had a handful of burgers that would either make my Top Ten Burger List or would be high honorable mentions. And the Smokehouse burger at Matty's Bar and Grille was one of the best I've had this year. While I may think about getting a pastrami sandwich or to try their pizza when I make it back down the road, it's going to be tough to pass up having another Smokehouse burger with some other combination of toppings. I immediately liked Matty's and was jealous of the people who were regulars of the place. It was one of those places that I could see going to time and time again to watch sports and grab a bite to eat if I lived nearby.